Chicoan takes a long, long bike ride
Here’s one way to spend your summer vacation: on a bike ride along the perimeter of the continental United States.

Sound wild and wacky … and exhausting? That’s exactly how Chicoan Marshall Westfall, who’s undertaken this adventure, describes it. He got the idea after his grandmother died of cancer recently and decided that he’d combine his love of bike riding with the desire to help fight cancer by making the marathon bike ride a fund-raiser.

Westfall, who’s 23, is taking the trip with five friends. They left from San Francisco on June 8 and don’t expect to be finished until sometime next January or February. The team averages about 75 miles a day and by the end of the trip will have biked more than 12,000 miles. So far, they’ve raised about $3,000, but they hope to raise $250,000 by the time they pull back into Chico.

The team can be reached via its Web site,

Citizen group: There’s no Wal-Mart in Paradise
A group of Paradise residents, rallied together by rumors that a Wal-Mart store may be on its way to the Ridge, are asking local businesses for help in fighting off the retailing behemoth.

Save Our Gateway charges that allowing Wal-Mart to build a 157,000-square-foot store just outside the “We Hope You Find Paradise To Be All Its Name Implies” sign would destroy the scenic beauty of the area and drive small businesses right out of town. According to a mailer addressed to local business owners, the group needs money to hire a land-use attorney and “maintain visibility in the community.”

“Fighting a ‘store wars’ takes ammunition,” the mailer reads.

For its part, representatives for Wal-Mart deny that they intend to open a store in Paradise, although plans to build a 300,000-square-foot shopping center—complete with a 157,000-square-foot “magnet store"—on the Skyway outside Paradise have been confirmed.

Arson suspect may have died of anti-freeze poisoning
A Durham man who suddenly collapsed outside Butte County Jail last week and later died might have drunk antifreeze, coroner’s officials reported.

James Lloyd Mootz was briefly held at the jail last week on suspicion that he was drunk in public and stalking his estranged wife after police found him in a car across the street from her house. After she told police that he had her permission to be there, Mootz was released and left the jail, but he collapsed just outside and smacked his head on the pavement.

Mootz had threatened suicide before, said Deputy Coroner Lt. Jerry Smith. A relative reported finding a bottle of anti-freeze next to a glass at Mootz’ home, Smith said. He speculated that Mootz could have consumed the antifreeze as long as 12 hours before collapsing outside the jail.

Although autopsy reports won’t be available for several weeks, Smith said that based on a preliminary investigation he expects the cause of Mootz’ death to be organ failure due to antifreeze poisoning.

Mootz was supposed to stand trial on charges that he set fire to the garage of the Oroville home where his estranged wife was staying in April.